The Giants' fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft had a tumultuous season that was almost night and day.
The first half of the season was marred by mistakes and growing pains, leading to an initial five-game span of 5 sacks and 28 pressures. It wasn’t until the week 8 Monday Night Football game that Andrew Thomas stabilized his erratic play.
For the rest of the season, excluding the Arizona Cardinals game, where the entire Giants offensive line was out-schemed, Thomas only allowed three sacks and 11 pressures.
He played with a lot more confidence, his balance was more secure, he was more patient, he figured out how to handle the inside counter moves, and he quit oversetting so consistently.
This was a welcomed sight for Giants’ fans who began to worry as negative memories of Ereck Flowers trotted through their hippocampus.
There were encouraging signs of true development down the stretch of the season, but I want to see this development turn into consistent play in the 2021 season.
Regression can still happen. It will be on the offensive line staff that includes Rob Sale, Ben Wilkerson, and Pat Flaherty to ensure that Thomas doesn’t revert to the poor technique he showcased earlier in the 2020 season. Let’s look at what Thomas offers overall in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
(Andrew Thomas is No. 78.)
The Good: Can Run Block
This rep is a good indication of the dominating nature and strength that Thomas can bring to these types of down blocking assignments.
His second readjustment upon the initial contact imposes his power and will on the defender while he drives him down to the ground. These types of run blocks were consistent for Thomas throughout the entire regular season.
The Giants ran a ton of power/gap type of runs, a lot of GF/GT counters, as well as G-Lead, sometimes with the center pulling as well. These two plays above are down type of blocks that don’t have pulling linemen with a designed hole.
This one is against one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the league, Cameron Heyward (No. 97). Thomas can use his momentum to drive him laterally, albeit it’s towards the play on the stretch zone, yet Thomas displays enough strength to create a big cut-back lane off his backside while Heyward falls to the ground.
Here’s another one where Thomas and Lemieux create the double team at the point of attack. I love watching Thomas’ eyes here; he scans to see the linebacker over-scrape outside and decides to continue with the double team to help pave a path for the running back. Thomas and Lemieux did well working in tandem down the stretch of the season in terms of picking up twists and while run blocking.
This is a great chip to help the tight end and then a drive-down block from Andrew Thomas, teamed with Lemieux, as they pave the way for the running back. Thomas is incredibly strong in his lower half, and he displays this while blocking in this manner.
Here we see some of the popularized power/gap plays that Jason Garrett loved to run. Shane Lemieux (66) chips the 3-technique defender, and Thomas (No. 78) splits him with one hand on the small of his back and the other on the defender’s midline as the defender attempts to get horizontal to penetrate.
Thomas uses good lower body strength and drive to push the defender down into the A-Gap, creating a wide-open B-Gap vacated by Lemieux, who did a good job locating the second-level defender. The result is a big hole for the running back. Thomas had many plays like this on these GF (guard, F-Back) counter runs the Giants frequently ran.
Thomas takes this slanting 6-technique for a ride inside while the backside guard leads the way for the running back. The defender’s momentum helps Thomas, but the young tackle still does a good job keeping his elbows tight, waiting patiently to attack, and then splitting the defender and not allowing him to spin back into the open gap to make a play on either the lead blocker or the running back.
The Great: Some Late Season Consistency in Pass Protection
Teams don’t invest top five selections into offensive linemen because they can run block--they have to be able to pass protect. Thomas showed this ability down the stretch of the season.
As you’ll see a bit later, Thomas struggled to defend his inside shoulder when setting. This would have been an inside move if the Ravens’ defender was allowed to execute that move, but Thomas does a much better job handling his technique here.
Watch how he strikes the defender on this play. There’s mirroring to the defender’s feet, the cadence is much smoother, and he has the outside hand high by the shoulder pad and the inside hand wrapping around the inside hand of the defender.
His chest is high, base is firm, and he shifts his weight in the direction of the rusher’s path. This doesn’t allow the defender to go through an open alley; the footwork and feel for the block are so much better, and it also passes the eye test much more than the earlier reps we saw.
Once the contact is made, Thomas gains depth into the pocket with that inside foot and not in a way that opens the gate. He gets his inside hand underneath the armpit and grabs cloth while hand fighting with his outside hand.
The lunging doesn’t happen until the contact is just about made and there is true absorption of the contact from Thomas. He uses his body and the ground as mechanisms to take on the defender's power while limiting his space to operate. His feet are also so much better and move with a great tempo.
This Dallas defender tries to work towards Thomas’ inside after the tackle stonewalls his outside rushing attempt--he probably watched earlier film of Thomas’ struggles. Still, the tackle has vastly improved that area of play.
The first strike misses, causing hand fighting, but Thomas comes back with a heavy two-handed punch; he then anchors himself down and uncoils power through his hips to give another punch and limit the space of the rusher. The EDGE rusher has no room to move inside, and he’s stopped in his tracks.
Another great play against the Cowboys, and it was great to see this in Week 17. Aldon Smith (No. 58) gave Thomas and the Giants a lot of problems in Week 5, as he had nine pressures in that game.
Patience, patience, patience! Thomas doesn’t jolt up the arc in a pure frantic state; he slowly watches Smith and paces with his tempo. Smith makes the first move, anticipating Thomas’ outside arm, and misses with the chop.
This prompts Thomas to give a hard and firm punch to the exposed inside shoulder of Smith. He then steps back, maintains inside contact with a long arm, and then brings his outside arm underneath the outside arm of Smith.
He has great feet, strike timing, and an excellent way to handle himself as an NFL left tackle.
Yannick Ngakoue (No. 91) is one of the league's more bendy and bursty types of pass rushers. Thomas, a player who overset far too often in the early parts of 2020, is tasked to handle Ngakoue, yet he doesn’t overset.
Giants to Sign LB Benardrick McKinney to Practice Squad
New York adds some veteran reinforcement to its linebacker pipeline.
Why the Giants Need to Be Sellers with Trade Deadline Approaching
The NFL Trade deadline is November 2. Will the Giants be active, and if so, what could they stand to gain in terms of salary cap relief?
He is patient, knowing that he’s in a 1-on-1. Thomas picks his outside foot up and then slows the tempo down to stay square on Ngakoue. Thomas easily beats him up the arc, and then Ngakoue is held by the play fake; Ngakoue then attempts to get around the edge, but Thomas easily flips his hips and rides him away from the pocket.
I love how Thomas easily kept pace with the pass rusher in the early parts of this play; there wasn’t the same type of panic we saw earlier in the season.
Another rep against Ngakoue, this time in the red zone. There’s no panic with Thomas here like we saw earlier in the season. He sets, hands are a bit wide, but his outside arm gets knocked downward.
Thomas, however, quickly comes back and gets both hands on Ngakoue, cutting off his angle as he mirrors the pass rusher up the arc. Ngakoue can’t corner, and he’s eliminated from the play.
I love the readjusting that Thomas does here; he makes contact, surrenders some ground, but then takes that outside arm and establishes it back inside and underneath the defender’s outside arm.
Then he pulls the defender close to him and sits back on his hips to anchor. When the defender attempts to get hip-to-hip, Thomas just turns outside while keeping his hands and elbows tight, and the Seahawk rusher can’t create any separation.
Here’s a very good technique and adjustment once the defender gets hip to hip by Thomas in the second matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thomas did a good job on this play, anchoring down and attacking the wide EDGE rusher, who attempted to win with speed right away. Thomas splits the defender in half--one hand on his chest, the other on the small of his back--and then he just controls and steers him away from the pocket.
The initial punch wasn’t the cleanest, but he readjusts his hands while moving and dictates the full control of the 1-on-1 matchup.
The Ugly: Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes
Yes, these mistakes mostly happened early in the season, but he wasn’t vintage Tyron Smith late in the year either--he just vastly improved.
Here’s the first matchup against the Eagles--Thomas was frequently beat inside all season like this play. Look closely at Thomas’ extension and hips when he goes for the double punch on this Eagles’ pass rusher; it’s a wide rusher, and Thomas meets him up the arc in a timely manner.
His hips are low and in a ready stance, but his footwork continues to move up the arc unnecessarily as he goes to punch. The extra step essentially acts as a revolving door, allowing the pass rusher a clear path to bounce off the contact and shoot into the pocket.
This issue is compounded by a forward lean that disallows a spring in Thomas’ step to assist in an easier recovery. Instead, Thomas has to completely flip his hips inside to handle the inside trajectory of the pass rusher.
A double punch like this can be dangerous; if landed cleanly, it can stun pass rushers, especially a tackle with the heavy hands like Thomas. If it only slightly lands, as we see above, it makes the tackle vulnerable.
Not many will fault Thomas for oversetting against a player like Khalil Mack (No. 52). Still, he has to be aware of the situation--something he improved upon as the season progressed.
Thomas should be aware of the 3-technique over Will Hernandez (No. 71), which means there isn’t going to be inside help, but the stress Mack puts on Thomas up the arc forces Thomas to overcompensate for his speed.
This allows these types of inside moves that were devastating to the young tackle early in the season.
Hernandez has that 3-technique over him, leaving Thomas on an island against a wide rusher. Thomas again leans too much with his punch and brings his hips up a bit too high with a narrow base to initiate contact.
He also again has to completely flip his hips inside to cover any inside move because he is undisciplined with his inside foot--his timing is improper, his punch location is off, and his balance is out of whack. He needs to exercise a bit more patience with his technique.
This is a different type of getting beat inside, but Thomas does show good processing skills. Thomas and Saquon Barkley were out-schemed a few other times by the Steelers on blitzes similar to this one, but Thomas is aware of the protection package and doesn’t bite on the looping late Blitzer.
It’s hard to believe with this result, but this is an eight-man protection package...yikes. Thomas steps to the Blitzer and lets him go because the smaller defender should be the assignment of the running back.
Thomas reacts well, initially, to the slanting linemen, but his technique is poor. He allows Arik Armstead (91) to disregard his inside hand, and he also raises his center of gravity way too much in an attempt to use strength to halt the defender.
He never gains control of Armstead’s side with his outside arm, allowing Armstead to get underneath Thomas and shove him inside, effectively surrendering the outside half of the young tackle. There’s little confidence with his positioning, feet, and his hands aren’t in any position to help absorb the contact and power that Armstead imposes upon him.
Thomas wasn’t just beaten badly inside, but his reasons for having the vulnerability in that direction were due to his struggles setting up the arc. He didn’t have the confidence to deal with speed, so he would overset, leading to an open alley through the B-Gap.
It’s plays like this that lead to the oversetting issues. When a tackle fears speed, he attempts to adjust for said speed, leaving opportunities for the EDGE rushers to use inside counter moves, which we saw above.
This is a really bad technique from Thomas against Robert Quinn (No. 94). Thomas’ pad level is too high, and he allows Quinn to easily get inside of his frame, establish a half-man relationship, get hip to hip, and then use a flurry of pass rush moves to strip the ball from Daniel Jones.
Quinn hits Thomas with a quick chop, club, and rip move while bending through the futile contact of Thomas. He has to be better with his feet, but he also has to use those hands to help stave off these defenders.
This one is a painful memory as well. Demarcus Lawrence (90) is wide of Thomas, and the tackle attempts to 45-degree set the talented EDGE rusher.
Thomas goes for a double punch at the engagement and misses, allowing Lawrence to get hip to hip and turn the corner. Thomas is lunging, his feet are way too close together, and the timing is poor.
He virtually misses contact, and Lawrence just runs around him and into the pocket where Jones is setting up after a play-action attempt. It’s an easy strip-sack touchdown for the Cowboys.
These early struggles painted Thomas’ rookie year in a manner of failure. There were a lot of big plays, game-changing types of plays, that were the direct result of Thomas’ mistakes.
The end of the season, however, was much better for Thomas. Confidence may not be quantifiable, but I do believe it makes a difference. More confidence equals better technique, awareness, and overall play.
Andrew Thomas improved as the season progressed, but we still remember those early-season struggles that were incredibly problematic. It’s fair to be cautious about Thomas; he doesn’t quite have the track record to rest on his laurels as a player that will continue the upward ascension with his development.
Nevertheless, it was very encouraging to see a better Thomas late last season, and the hope is that Rob Sale can continue to extract that type of play from Thomas. The more confident Thomas is, the better. I look forward to watching him play this season.
More "Good, Great & Ugly" Breakdowns
RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph | OLB Oshane Ximines | LB Carter Coughlin | IDL Dexter Lawrence II | WR Darius Slayton | LB Cam Brown | DL Leonard Williams | OL Will Hernandez | IDL Austin Johnson | IDL B.J. Hill | WR Sterling Shepard | ILB Blake Martinez | DB Logan Ryan | C Nick Gates | OT Matt Peart | CB Darnay Holmes | ILB Tae Crowder | CB James Bradberry | QB Daniel Jones | OL Shane Lemieux | DB Julian Love